One of the biggest concerns/barriers to a plant based Vegan diet is protein, especially within the fitness industry where mainstream thinking pivots around protein as the epicenter of muscle growth & strength. If you are curious about Vegans, plant proteins & contemplating change, then I’m sure you have questions like:
- What are the best protein sources for building muscle? -How much protein do I need? - How do I make my old macro split fit a Vegan diet or if I need to change it, what should it look like?
My obligation to you during this article is to give you the very best knowledge I currently have as a Vegan Bodybuilder & Vegan Nutrition coach. Let me explain EXACTLY HOW.
The fundamental thing to remember is MOST foods inherently have protein in them. We are so conditioned to focus on foods that are either isolated protein or HIGH protein and low in everything else. Now, that isn’t a bad thing, but could it be better? Now these protein sources such as Tofu, Tempeh, Seitan and mock meats are either isolated or processed but are more protein dense and have less fats and carbs. Seitan (wheat protein) is super high in protein content and low in carbs and fats. The downside to this is obviously not everyone wants to consume processed food, but if you are looking to transition and need simple ‘bridging tools’, or to test the waters - then the above sources are an awesome way to keep your existing macro split intact while you remove animal proteins. A few other of my own staple protein sources I use on a weekly basis along side, Tofu (10g Per ½ Cup) Tempeh (15g per ½ Cup), Seitan (21g for 3oz) are:
The most important thing to remember is that if you eat enough TOTAL calories you will accumulate enough Amino Acids into your system to hit muscle protein synthesis thresholds, which will assist the muscle growth process. Fundamentally the origin of the protein on a chemical level is irrelevant, so just because some of these sources inherently have a bit more carbohydrate or fats in them, doesn’t mean they won’t yield the same, if not better muscle building properties
1) Keep your existing macro split which is normally higher protein, lower carbs & fats (or some kind of carb cycling).
To achieve this you replace meats & eggs with the highest protein plant sources listed at the start – Tofu, Tempeh, Seitan, Mock Meats or protein powders. You can make a tofu scramble that has a very similar macro breakdown to scrambled eggs. Simply put, using the above plant protein sources and subbing them in for the old animal foods is the approach you want to implement. Is it the ideal approach? Well it depends, if you enjoy those foods – then sure, do it, but in my experience there is a better way and it what I practice and teach others.
2) Adjusting the macro split to introduce more carb-dense proteins in (Nutrient diversity)
By tapering your total protein target back a little so you can add in more carb dense plant proteins like chickpeas, lentils & beans. This then opens the door for added micronutrients, and a wider range of nutrition – which ultimately helps with output and performance. I have found this to be the case for myself and so many others, having hit ALL my gym PR’s as a vegan. (500lbs squat / 650lbs dead lift / 395lbs bench press). Currently now my macro split is approximately 50% Carbs, 25%-30% protein and 20-25% fats, yet my wife’s is less carbs and more fats. It is important to know that there is no one size fits all model for this. I talk often about testing your own BIOFEEDBACK to know how to adjust your macros. Based on cues like:Strength, Endurance, Skin quality, Sleep quality, Digestion, Energy levels, Hunger & Water retention. When you factor all these variables in, it allows you to make adjustments to your macro split and food choices week by week so you can still make loads of gains, but with a vastly different macro breakdown than you ever had before. It DOES work, believe me on that!
What I want you to realize is that your ability to progressively overload your training is directly impacted by how well you recover, how well you sleep, your nutrient density and micronutrient diversity. By optimizing that, it opens the door for heightened performance, which then allows you to grow bigger and get stronger. You probably wonder if this works so well then why do so few people do it? Simple because so few people know about it. Just because a certain way of living or eating is a majority ‘thing’, doesn’t mean it is the best way. If this former butcher and avid meat eater, who thought Vegans were a bunch of weirdos – now Vegan bodybuilder & animal advocate can do it, anyone can. Stepping outside the norms and comfort zones is often where the magic happens. Push that boundary, I challenge you.